Flight to racism: Indian descent varsity lecturer accuses airlines of racial harassment

Dr Malhotra was told not to sleep with his hands covered as "a matter of security".

13th April 2011: Born in the UK, but of Indian descent Edinburgh University lecturer Dr Ashok Malhotra has accused an airlines of indulging in racial harassment.


In a complaint, Dr Malhotra said he was told not to sleep with his hands covered as "a matter of security".

The Civil Aviation Authority has not formulated any rules against allowing passengers to have their heads or hands covered during a flight.

He has already contacted the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Scotland.

His  case has been taken up by MP Sheila Gilmore. She says such incidents do not help alleviate "hysteria" over possible threats to airlines.

Elaborating, Dr Malhotra has claimed he was, in fact, warned of being escorted off the BMI Baby plane, if his hands were not visible at all times.

The incident has brought to the fore the fact that passengers having Asian or Muslim appearance are discriminated against by some airline staff following apprehensions of terrorist attacks.

Malhotra, 32, says a flight attendant woke him up to say his actions "disturbed" other passengers, after he had covered his head and hands with his jacket.

The lecturer in South Asian Studies was of the belief the treatment would have been different had he been a white.

Having a seven-month-old son, Arjun, Malhotra has claimed he had a sleepless night before the flight to East Midlands Airport. He was looking forward to catch up on some sleep as he was to deliver a lecture at Leicester University later that day.

Malhotra said the flight had taken off and he had gone off to sleep, when he was woken up by the air stewardess. She asked him to take his coat off saying the other passengers were disturbed and she too was not comfortable with it.

She told him what he was doing with my hands was disturbing and he should either take off his coat off or be escorted off the plane when it arrived.

Backing her, a flight attendant said in these days of heightened security everyone must be transparent.

He is seeking an apology and a ticket refund.


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